Albany Med students say treating pandemic patients inspired renewed push for healthcare legislation

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ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — Medical students making their rounds through Albany Med say they saw first hand cracks in the healthcare system made worse by COVID-19.

“The pandemic definitely shed light on the brokenness of our system and the challenges that we are faced with as future physicians,” says third-year student Samantha Sherman.

“That was part of my hesitancy to attend medical school, was just seeing how broken our system is at times. For me, that also provided me with the motivation, really wanting to be a physician that addresses these disparities,” says second-year student Sarah Theiner.

Around 40 healthcare students took to their annual advocacy day virtually and asked 32 lawmakers to push certain bills and also give their ideas for new ones. One major ask involves a bill to require mental health professionals in every New York school.

“Something I noticed while on my pediatric rotation, it was incredibly noticeable the dramatic increase in these children with mental health issues at a very young age coming in from hours away, and we saw this on a daily basis. That was very eye-opening to me,” says Sherman.

“Normalizing seeking out this care in schools when kids are young and when they can take the back of these conversations to their own home, that might even negate some of the stigma that we have in place,” one student, Sahar Gowani, stated during her planned meeting with a legislator’s aide.

Students also asked legislators to fully fund Medicaid, establish residential care for mental health patients as an alternative to incarceration, better fund environmental conservation, and make COVID-19 prevention resources better available to those uninsured, in order to ease the burden on immigrants, Black and brown communities hit hardest by the pandemic.

“This is not the time to make cuts,” Theiner explains to NEWS10’s Mikhaela Singleton. “Take proactive measures so that people don’t have health crises, and also so that we are able to address it early on and not incur those costs that really come up when you’re addressing something much later in its progression.”

“When we are investing in people’s health, we are investing in the economy and especially when we do that as early on as possible,” says Chiara Lawrence during one of her virtual meetings with lawmakers.

They say they want to make their future jobs as healthcare professionals easier, but more importantly, learn now how to be the voice for their patients.

“I’ve always had an interest in working with marginalized patients. I think that the disparities are very clear within medicine and now, going through this process especially being on the floor as a third-year medical student, it’s all the more real,” says Sherman.

“If we are not speaking up for the patient, who is?” asks Theiner.

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